After last year’s tragic incident at Grenfell Tower, fitting high quality and certified fire doors should be a top priority for every organisation. David Hindle, Head of Door Closers at Assa Abloy UK discusses how facilities managers can check their fire doors and associated hardware are performing as they should be.
It goes without saying that fire doors act as an essential barrier against flames and smoke, stopping the spread of fire. The number, rating and location of fire doors for non-domestic buildings – such as universities, hospitals, public buildings and commercial sites – will vary depending on a fire risk assessment, the site’s design and layout, and the needs of those using the building.
There are many different elements to a fire door, including the door leaf, frame, intumescent seals, hinges, door closer, lock or latch and other associated ironmongery. However, a fire door is only as strong as the sum of its parts. Should any element fail, it can trigger a domino effect across the other components, with potentially catastrophic results.
While three million fire doors are installed in the UK every year, incorrect specification, poor installation and a lack of maintenance is still common. A review undertaken by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme revealed the most common fire door faults. These range from missing fire or smoke seals, to unsuitable hinges and damage to the door leaf itself. All of these can seriously impede a door’s capability to protect people from harm.
Facilities managers have a vital role to play in eliminating the risk of fire, and – where possible – controlling those risks should an incident arise. What steps, then, should a facilities manager take to help ensure fire doors and associated hardware are correctly specified, installed and will do their job if needed?
The fire door
Periodic checks should be carried out on fire doors at least every six months, and even more regularly if the door is heavily used on a day-to-day basis. A record of inspection and maintenance should also be kept, and the facilities manager responsible for a site should encourage other staff to report any issues.
Facilities managers should be checking that the door leaf is not damaged, warped or twisted, and ensuring the fire door closes correctly around all parts of the frame. The gap around the door frame should be consistent too – approximately 3 to 4mm all the way round. A pound coin is ideal to check the gap around the door.
Ensure the door is correctly specified by looking at the information stamped on the top of the leaf. If the fire door features a viewing panel, it’s also important to check the glass is fitted securely, and that the door does not have any exposed holes. No fire door should be wedged or propped open either, and all should be marked with the appropriate signage for those using the site.
Hinges should be firmly screwed into the door and frame, with no missing screws, and facilities managers should make sure that the seals at the top and sides of the door are not damaged or missing.
It is important to note that additional ironmongery components may impact on a fire door’s ability to close. A new latch or lockcase is most likely to influence a door’s closing force, so it’s important to bear this in mind. Also, be careful to ensure any changes to the area surrounding the door doesn’t stop the fire door from functioning properly. For example, new flooring could potentially rub against the bottom of a fire door, stopping it from closing fully.
Fire doors should also meet British Standard EN 12519, as well as being CE marked and Certifire tested.
Door closer inspections
One of the most important elements to a fire door is the door closer. Practically all fire doors will be fitted with a door closer to ensure the door always returns to its fully closed position, as well as ensuring the door seals correctly in the doorframe when not in use. It should meet relevant testing and certification standards, such as EN 1154 and EN 1155, ensuring door closure takes place in a controlled and consistent way.
For door closers, there are a number of checks that facilities managers can undertake to ensure these are operating correctly. First of all, open the door fully and check that it closes without dragging across the floor. Secondly, open the door to approximately 5-10 degrees and again check that it fully closes, engaging any latch or seal. A final step is to check the door closing speed is approximately five seconds from a 90 degree angle, ensuring the door does not slam shut. If you have a large number of fire doors, it might be a good idea to buy a digital force gauge, which will help you identify opening and closing forces. These are widely available online and cost in the region of £100 – money well spent.
All these measures can help a facilities manager quickly determine whether a fire door is fit for purpose or not. If a door closer does not meet these requirements, then the appropriate steps can be taken to get this resolved.
Furthermore, there are a range of simple checks that a facilities manager can perform to understand whether the hardware installed on a fire door is performing as expected. To begin with, ensure lock levers fully return to the horizontal position after use, and the latchbolt engages smoothly and completely into the keep. Next, be sure to wipe off any metal dust deposits off the latchbolt and keep, and adjust, lubricate and replace these as per the manufacturers instructions.
For all other ironmongery, ensure that all fixings are secure and in good condition. Some hinges, closer arms and locks may require lubrication too – simply check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Simple maintenance checks such as the ones outlined above can help facilities managers quickly determine whether a fire door and its hardware is performing as required and, if not, action can be taken. Nevertheless, please remember that the full inspection of a fire door should be carried out by a trained and qualified professional. Should replacement components be needed, then these professionals will be able to ensure compatible and certified parts are specified.
By taking this approach, facilities managers can ensure a safe and secure environments for those using a building, helping to put out any risk that an unsuitable fire door may pose.